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Homeless in High School

Homeless in High School

High school is hard enough for teens who come from stable homes, but homeless teens face an entirely new set of challenges. Despite boasting a median household income of over $100,000, Fairfax County Virginia has almost 2,000 homeless teens, 200 of whom are living on their own, without a parent or guardian. 
One such teen, profiled by the Washington Post Tuesday, was 18-year-old Landis Brewer, abandoned by his parents after their marriage disintegrated. Brewer was left alone in his house until he was evicted. Thus began a series of nights spent in bus stops or any other location where Brewer could stay safe and warm. 
Finally a teacher confronted Brewster and his story was exposed. Lucky for him, Fairfax County has a program, The Homeless Youth Initiative, which gives homeless teens their own caseworkers and housing to ensure that these students have a fighting chance.

All over the country, homelessness is becoming more and more prevalent, even among teenagers. According to the Education Department, we have over one million homeless students among us, some of whom are completely alone, like Landis Brewer was. Counties in Washington confirmed these statistics, citing 2,000 homeless students, around 80 of whom are thought to have no parent or guardian with them. Keep in mind that these statistics don’t account for the numbers of students who have dropped out of high school due to their homelessness and lack of support systems.

The Fairfax Homeless Youth Initiative seems to be working. It provides rent subsidies for some and host homes for other students who aren’t ready to live on their own. The program is about more than providing housing, social worker Kristen Sorenson told the Post, “They call us when they get their report cards and when they want to share good news. This is their support network.” The results seem promising. 
Many of the program participants, students who would have been at risk for dropping out of high school, are graduating and moving on to college.
However, the Fairfax Homeless Youth Initiative may be in trouble. It had been run on stimulus funding which will dry up soon. After the stimulus funding is gone, the program will rely on funding from grants. 
Landis Brewer is living proof of the success of the program. Landis, the boy who once slept in bus stops and fell asleep in class, is preparing to leave for college next fall.

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Photo thanks to Michi003 via Flickr

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25 comments

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3:31AM PDT on Apr 14, 2012

And we still send millions to foreign aid for poor kids. Take care of your own, then help other countries. How do people sleep when they write out a fat check to places out of US while next door kids are starving and sleeping on the floor because furniture was sold long ago? It's time to help at home and let other countrys stop relying on us.

9:46PM PST on Jan 4, 2011

it's good to read great articles like this one! hope they keep up the great work! so many homeless kids need help.

12:19PM PST on Jan 4, 2011

What a great program, I wish all communities had safety nets in place like this for homeless teens. Also, kudos to the teacher for noticing what was going on. The older kids are, the better they get at hiding abuse, poverty, and neglect.

5:07AM PST on Jan 4, 2011

Yes, at one time, the program called "Family" worked -- and it still does work for some. However, we cannot turn back time. Things have changed, and this means that "Family" is not going to work for some people. The POINT is, what are we going to do for those for whom "Family" is not a viable option. Are we going to just whine about the demise of "Family", or are we going to put things in place to allow those who are dealing without -having- the "Family" option to become functional, self-sustaining members of the community?

There is no point in whining over the lost 1950s -- it is time to figure out what to do to help us function in the 21st century, and deal with life as it exists -now-, and the realities and struggles within our community.

6:34PM PST on Jan 3, 2011

I work with a transitional living program for homeless women & their children, and see the impact homelessness has on the kids. I have been in the hospital room when a baby was born and have seen a teen graduate high school. These kids are typically behind in school, have few friends, and carry around a lot of issues that someone their age should not have to deal with.

Despite the number of very good teachers out there, they are so overloaded and often don't have the time to get involved in a child's life outside of schoolwork. After all, their job is to teach, not to parent. Kudos for this teacher who got involved to make a difference.

4:19PM PST on Jan 3, 2011

Congratulations and applause to Fairfax County, Virginia for helping it's homeless, abandoned teens!

9:58AM PST on Jan 3, 2011

We need to be much more informed about the homeless children in order to help!

9:53AM PST on Jan 2, 2011

Sadly noting

2:53AM PST on Jan 1, 2011

Sadly noted!!

1:51AM PST on Dec 31, 2010

Sad truth

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